Nearing the Denver International Airport on my return from Israel/Palestine, the woman in the seat behind me began to hum. As we were waiting to disembark, I turned to her and mentioned the tune. We chatted a bit and realized that we had been on the same flight from Tel Aviv. Naturally we talked about where we had been. She and her husband had spent two weeks at a resort near the Dead Sea. I mentioned Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem. She indicated that she would like to visit Hebron, but that Bethlehem was too dangerous. I replied that my experience was just the opposite: I felt perfectly safe in Bethlehem and that Hebron was more the dangerous place.

And then it hit me. In my sleepy, jet-lagged state I had forgotten that I was no longer with my Christian Peacemaker Team delegation. The couple behind me on that flight were Jews, returning from a vacation in Israel. From their perspective Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and therefore dangerous and even illegal for them to visit (although as US citizens they are allowed into Bethlehem). Hebron, with 1500 soldiers protecting the four Jewish settlements in the Old City, feels much safer to them.


For me,  Bethlehem was where our group stayed in the guesthouse of a Palestinian refugee camp and walked freely throughout the city. In contrast, every movement we made in Hebron was overseen by armed soldiers and we had to go through checkpoints every time we wanted to enter or leave the Old City where we were staying.

I returned home determined to speak out against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and to challenge my own government to stop funding military action against a civilian population. I quickly learned that what I considered a call for Israel and the US to uphold basic human rights was seen very differently by my Jewish friends. Several good friends were quick to point out that although they do not support the Israeli occupation, they found my views one-sided. After several email exchanges it seems that we do not understand each other. Our friendship is strained and may not survive.

I’m so sad about this. My life-long philosophy has been “It’s all about relationships.” And now it seems that I am faced with a choice between maintaining a dear friendship or speaking out against an unjust situation.

I’ve been thinking about perspective. My Jewish friends tell me that my one-sided advocacy on behalf of the Palestinians threatens the very existence of Israel. From what I experienced in Israel/Palestine, I believe that the Israelis are creating conditions of humiliation and hopelessness. By advocating for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Israel and the Occupied Territories, I hope that Israelis and Palestinians can both live in peace and dignity.

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